Blue Waters To Go Online by 2011

Iowa State University will take delivery is a partner with NCSA & IBM* in the development of Blue Waters – the world’s first supercomputer to be able to sustain 1 petaflop – in 2011. (source: FoxNews). IBM says Blue Waters will have a peak performance of 10 petaflops. (source: Wikipedia)

Blue Waters, an implementation of PERCS technology, is planned to be composed of:
– more than 25,000 eight-core POWER7 CPUs with 32MB on-die L3 cache running at 4.0 GHz (200,000 cores)
– more than 1 petabyte of main memory
– more than 10 petabytes of disk storage
– half an exabyte of archival storage
– up to 400 Gbit/s external (Internet) connectivity

Why is this important?

Well, according to Ray Kurzweil (listen to 2005 my interview with him here), the human brain probably has a computational level of 20 petaflops. (source: The Enlightened Blog)

And we all know that Moore’s Law says that theoretical computing speeds double every 2 years. That means we should have a supercomputer doing 20 petaflops by 2013.

Take THAT, stupid Mayans.

* The first draft of this post said Iowa State was “taking deliver” of Blue Waters. My thanks to Trish Barker from National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) for sending me an email pointing out that “while Iowa State is a partner on the project and scientists from Iowa State will use the supercomputer to do big science, the supercomputer will be here at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign”.

She also gave me these additional links:

The hardware:
The building:

New Singularity Essays

IEEE Spectrum has a series of new essays on the singularity from the likes of Vernor Vinge and Rodney Brooks (who have both been on this show in the last year).

My favourite quote so far comes from Vinge’s new essay “Signs of the Singularity“:

“The best answer to the question, “Will computers ever be as smart as humans?” is probably “Yes, but only briefly”.”

Four More Years Before Machines Surpass Humans

Hans Moravec has suggested that the human brain has a processing capacity of 10 quadrillion instructions per second (10 billion MIPS). In comparison, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world, called Roadrunner and devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, is capable of handling 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

In 2007, it was announced the previous fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene /l, had been upgraded to achieve 478 TFLOPS sustained and 596 TFLOPS peak. So in less that 12 months, we’ve doubled (hey, I should create a law around that prediction).

So, if Moore’s Law holds out:

2009 – 2 QIPS

2010 – 4 QIPS

2011 – 8 QIPS

2012 – 16 QIPS – which puts it 6 QIPS above the suggested ability of a human brain.

Are you ready for that? Do you think the human race is ready for that?

We have NO IDEA what the consequences of that are. On one hand, it could be nothing. On the other hand, what if sentience is nothing more than massive computation?

Either way, here we are, a mere 4 years before a machine is likely to be built which will have a bigger brain than a human and we aren’t even discussing what that means for the human race.

Well, that’s not exactly true – Tyler’s Singularity Institute are discussing it, but where is the debate in mainstream media, in the government, in polite society?

It reminds me of a chat I had with Australian SF author Damien Broderick over dinner about ten years ago. I asked him when he thought these subjects would be discussed by the general populace. He replied “when it’s way too late to do anything about it”.

Reading Warren Ellis’ blog

If you haven’t read / aren’t reading Warren Ellis’ work, then you are seriously missing out on one of the most exciting things happening in media (for my money anyway). I only discovered his stuff about a year ago and I’ve become a complete fanboi. Ellis has been writing comics for about 15 years, including some mainstream titles like IRON MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR, but he’s best loved for his original titles such as TRANSMETROPOLITAN (about a Hunter S. Thompson-esque journalist in a dystopian future America), GLOBAL FREQUENCY (about a loosely-coupled team of expert terrorism fighters), and PLANETARY (about a small team of super-powered humans saving the world from the forces of evil, domestic and interstellar). His writing is edgy, political, taps into transhumanism and the singularity, and he usually works with terrific artists who create stunning imagery to flesh-out his stories. He’s got a new web comic called FREAKANGELS which looks like it’s going interesting places as well.

Anyway, this post was prompted by one of his blogs posts this morning (see below) about the Thunderbirds and I was thinking about how shows like that (and, of course, Star Trek), considered camp and silly even at the time by many, inspired a generation. And I was thinking – what are today’s shows which are likely to inspire the next generation of adults to push the boundaries of science, art and business? What shows on TV today are building a vision for a better future, one we can aspire to, strive for, work towards? Most of the shows I love today (or have loved recently), the futuristic shows, are dystopian. BSG, Firefly (RIP)… ummm… hard to think of any others right now. While they each have some cool toys and technologies, I don’t think either of them contain aspirational messages. I do, however, get a lot of aspirational futures from the books I read. Charles Stross, William Gibson, Vernor Vinge – all write about near-term futures which get me bloody excited. But not TV.

Got any suggestions?

clipped from
I loved THUNDERBIRDS. Save the world, go back to your island base, get rat-arsed, smoke a thousand cigarettes and hit on the Quality and the Asian girl. These are the lessons tv taught us back then. . I will go now, because Ariana says these notes are taking on the tone of a guy on a desert island talking to his pet coconut.
  blog it

G’Day World – Three Years Young

Yesterday, November 26, was the third anniversary of G’Day World and Australian podcasting. What started off as an experiment to see how to record two Skype calls turned into a full-time job. Check out the first show here. I hope that’s a lesson to all the kids out there. If an idiot like me can make a living out doing something fun like making podcasts, what can smart folks like you do?

That said, I still feel like we’re just starting. I’m frustrated on a daily basis with how little I have achieved in the last three years and the road ahead seems daunting and exciting at the same time. Not a bad way to be actually.

I’d like to thank everyone who has listened, commented, provided advice, support and money to the show over the last three years. I especially want to thank my guests and co-hosts. It’s been great to share the journey with you. I especially want to thank my family to allowing me to piss $500,000 of our life savings into TPN without lopping off my nads. And to my TPN partners (aka the ‘hosts’), Mano , and the guys from who have kept us running over the last couple of months – without your continued support and vision, none of this would be possible.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to review some of the 300+ shows that I think have been significant (in no particular order):

#147 – John Romero – creator of DOOM

#242 – Vint Cerf – co-inventor of TCP/IP and hence the Internet

#42 – Dr Aubrey de Grey – life extension researcher

#56 – Noam Chomsky – world’s leading intellectual and critic of American foreign policy

#57 – Ray Kurzweil – scientist and author, prophet of the Technological Singularity

#60 – David Weinberger – co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto”

#61 – Doc Searls – co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto”

#264 – Dr Peter Ellyard, Futurist (Part 4) – Australia’s leading futurist

#243 – Dr Peter Ellyard (part 3) – Australia’s leading futurist

#238 – Eliezer Yudkowsky – world leading AI researcher and futurist

#302 – Dr John Demartini on overcoming your fears – inspirational speaker and author

#271 – Vernor Vinge, SF Author Extraordinaire – Award-winning SF author, predicted the cyberspace in 1981

#290 – Julian Burnside QC – one of Australia’s highest profile barristers and human rights advocates

There are heaps more but this is a start.